Focus on the customer pays off for Lowe's in Q4

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe's rebranding efforts and focus on delivering a better customer experience seem to be paying off as the company ended the year with strong fourth-quarter sales and earnings.

The company reported net earnings of $322 million for the fourth quarter, a 13% increase over the same period a year ago. Diluted earnings per share increased 23.8% to 26 cents from 21 cents in the fourth quarter of 2010. 

Lowe's reported sales for the quarter increased 11% to $11.6 billion, up from $10.5 billion in the same period a year ago. Comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter increased 3.4% versus a comparable 14-week period, while comparable store sales for the U.S. business increased 3.5%. 

For the full year, Lowe's reported a net earnings decline of 8.5% to $1.8 billion, while diluted earnings per share increased 0.7 percent to $1.43 from $1.42.  For the fiscal year sales were $50.2 billion, a 2.9% increase over the prior fiscal year. Comparable-store sales for the fiscal year were essentially flat.

Lowe's noted that the extra week in its fiscal year contributed $766 million to sales and approximately 5 cents to diluted earnings per share in the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Feb. 3.

“We delivered solid results for the quarter, including earnings per share that exceeded our guidance,” commented Robert A. Niblock, Lowe’s chairman, president and CEO. “I am encouraged by the progress we made in 2011 toward delivering better customer experiences and transforming our business to drive long-term sales growth, increased profitability and shareholder value. I would like to thank our hard working employees for their ongoing dedication and customer focus.

As of Feb. 3, Lowe’s operated 1,745 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico representing 196.5 million square feet of retail selling space.

For the fiscal year 2012, Lowe's said it expects sales to increase between 1% and 2% and comparable-store sales to increase 1% to 3%. The company said it expects to open about 10 stores in fiscal 2012.